Tennessee Modernism: The Modernism of Maryville College

Maryville College was founded in 1819 as a Presbyterian school geared towards training local ministers. But by the 1940s, the college was growing more diverse, and the old buildings were growing crowded. When a small fire burned down the chapel where music classes were being held, the school began an ambitious plan to update its campus architecture. With an eye towards the future, and hoping to reflect the contemporary nature of its new student body, the university understood that mid-century modern architecture would be a natural fit for the look of the new buildings.

Alright, let’s take a look at the various modernist structures built on campus.

Structure: Fine Arts Building at Maryville College
Location: Maryville, Tennessee
Architect: Schweikher & Elting
Date: 1950
Story: The building placed a heavy emphasis on musical performance space because, at that time, roughly 2/3 of Maryville College’s students took at least one or more music courses. The funding came from a Chicago couple, Mr. and Mrs. Glen Alfred Lloyd. Mr. Lloyd, who had attended Maryville College, was the brother of the current president. Mr. Lloyd had gone on to become a successful lawyer in Chicago. Paul Schweikher & Winston Elting’s firm (Schweikher & Elting) were also based out of Chicago, so this may have been how an East Tennessee school connected with that particular architectural firm.

The building itself received national acclaim, with Architectural Record running articles on both the building’s construction (in June of 1950) and the final product (Dec of 1951). Let’s have a look at a panoply of photos from when the building was created all the way up to the modern day.

Of note, the organ inside of the building’s auditorium was designed by the notable organ builder Walter Holtkamp (out of Ohio) in concert with architects Schweikher & Elting

Organ designed by the Holtkamp Organ Company of Ohio

Structure: Samuel Tyndale Wilson Chapel
Location: Maryville, Tennessee
Architect: Schweikher & Elting, Barber & McMurry (associates)
Date: 1954
Tidbit: To replace the old chapel (which had burned down), the college built a complex right next to the Fine Arts Building which contained a new small chapel, a 1,150-person auditorium, a 450-person theatre stage, along with classrooms and offices.

Structure: Margaret Bell Lloyd Residence for Women
Location: Maryville, Tennessee
Architect: Schweikher & Elting, Barber & McMurry (associates)
Date: 1959
Tidbit: Pictures of this modernist dorm are hard to come by, but the structure was made of light gray brick, gray concrete, aluminum and gray-tinted glass. The dorm rooms featured built-in furniture (a desk, a dresser, and shelving) — all trimmed in brown ash wood. The lobby had floor-to-ceiling glass, while the non-glass walls were clad in tangerine, teal blue, turquoise, gold, green, black, and white. The lobby opened onto a small garden as well.

Frances Massey, dean of women, stands in front of the new women’s dorm

In 1960, a Maryville College bulletin claimed the college was looking to fund-and-build a new science hall. Designed by Knoxville firm Barber & McMurry, it’s not clear whether this was ever built.

Rendering of Maryville College Science Hall by Barber & McMurry (circa 1960)

Eventually Maryville College decided it wanted its campus architecture to go back to everyone’s favorite university style: collegiate gothic. In 2007, the Fine Arts Building and Samuel Tyndale Wilson Chapel were demolished to make room for new buildings. I could not bring myself to post a photo of the demolition but if you’re interested, there’s a Flickr album that contains photos of the razing.